Entertainment

Netflix's 'Snabba Cash' Is a Stylish Swedish Crime Drama About Chasing Money

The thriller draws parallels between the hustle culture of start-ups and the drug-trade.

snabba cash
Netflix

In the first episode of Netflix's latest crime drama, Snabba Cash, a Swedish series that blends the brio of start-up culture with the grit of the drug trade, the main character, Leya (Evin Ahmad), makes a pitch for her new company, TargetCoach. The product, which Leya eventually convinces a powerful VC kingmaker to sink money into, offers clients a chance to use AI to cut through the clutter of opinions online and discover what people "really want." For a show that can feel like a calculated mix of other popular series—a touch of Industry and Billions here, a pinch of Ozark and The Wire there—it's bold to have the protagonist selling a service that resembles some of Netflix's own internal practices.

With American audiences becoming more open to checking out foreign-language titles—French caper series Lupin was a bright spot earlier this year, and shows Who Killed Sara? and The Serpent are currently in the Netflix Top 10—Snabba Cash could be the next show your most Netflix-obsessed friend is insisting you add to your watch list. Is it worth investing in? Or are the KPIs on this one a little out of whack? I ran the numbers—uh, watched the first couple episodes—and drew up an action plan below.

snabba cash
Netflix

What is Netflix's Snabba Cash about?

Snabba Cash follows single-mother Leya as she navigates the treacherous world of start-ups, where a predatory loan can tank your chances at becoming the next "unicorn," while attempting to extricate herself from the the equally dangerous world of drug trafficking, where rival gangs and the police pose a number of deadly threats. During the day, Leya works at a restaurant to pay the bills, but she's tied to the Sweden's criminal underworld through Ravy (Dada Fungula Bozela), the brother of her son's dead father. She also pursues a tentative romantic relationship with Salim (Alexander Abdallah), who makes money as a singer while also serving as a gunman in Ravy's crew. If that's not enough plot, there's another story about a young teen Tim (Ali Alarik), who gets wrapped up in some of the gang's low-level, street-based operations.

Though the show weaves between these different threads, Leya's journey—and Ahmad's intense performance—is what will draw you in. She has that combination of ego, drive, compassion, nerve, and self-awareness that makes her a winning prestige crime series protagonist, the type of character where you root on even as they make terrible decisions and dig themselves deeper into a hole. It's clear from the jump that Leya will eventually lean on her drug connections to help fund her entrepreneurial dreams, but there's tension in watching her make each moral compromise along the way.

snabba cash
Netflix

Is the series related to the 2010 movie Snabba Cash (a.k.a. Easy Money)?

In 2010, Joel Kinnaman starred in the Swedish crime drama Easy Money, which was based on a 2007 novel of the same name by attorney-turned-author Jens Lapidus. The film, which follows Kinnaman's gun-wielding social climber Johan "JW" Westlund, was a hit and helped launch Kinnaman's career in Hollywood. (The year after its release, he landed parts in David Fincher's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo adaptation and the AMC crime series The Killing.) Though an American remake starring Zac Efron was announced way back in 2010, that version never ended up getting made. Bummer for Zac.

Kinnaman returned for a pair of sequels, Easy Money II: Hard to Kill and Easy Money III: Life Deluxe, but Netflix's Snabba Cash is being framed as a "reboot" that adapts the themes of the original novel and film series for the contemporary moment with new characters. Basically, you can enjoy the show without being familiar with the original movies. If you want to do your Snabba Cash due diligence, the 2010 movie is currently available to stream on HBO Max. (Why isn't it on Netflix? Who knows?)

snabba cash
Netflix

Should you watch Snabba Cash?

It really depends how much you need another grim, slick crime drama in your life. In its first two episodes, Snabba Cash strings together a handful of nail-biting set-pieces, often shooting characters from behind as they run for their lives or pace through menacing corporate corridors, that elevate it above your average gritty, violent cable shoot-em-up. Plus, the actors, particularly Ahmad and Abdallah, have genuine chemistry and the writers find ways to bring a degree of naturalism and novelty to some familiar genre beats, like staging a sit-down between hardened criminals in a Discovery Zone-like child play-place. 

Still, some of those scenes have a perfunctory quality, like the creators are eager to get back to Leya's home life and her business venture. Even if the show's insights into money and power can feel warmed over—Amazon's under-seen ZeroZeroZero covered some of the same thematic territory with way more style and ambition last year—there's potential here that hasn't quite been fully realized yet. Is that a hedge? Yeah, probably. But just like easy money, there's no such thing as easy streaming.

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Dan Jackson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment. He's on Twitter @danielvjackson.
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